23,000 dead: HSI calls for urgent spectacled flying-fox endangered listing

By : Humane Society International December 19, 2018

Humane Society International (HSI) is calling on Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to immediately list the spectacled flying-fox as Endangered after 1/3 of the species was killed through the first ever heat stress event to impact it. Record Cairns temperatures of 42.6 degrees in late November saw wildlife carers struggling to cope with demand as the flying-foxes died from overheating in shocking numbers.

HSI made a submission for the spectacled flying-fox to be uplisted to the national Endangered category in 2015, and Minister Price is due to make her listing decision by January 7 following two years of delays and inaction from the Federal Government.

“A succession of Federal Environment Ministers have much to answer for regarding the plight of threatened flying-foxes, as well as putting the countless species and ecosystems that rely on them for survival at serious risk,” said HSI’s Head of Programs Evan Quartermain.

“We’ve seen exemptions from national law for major dispersal and habitat destruction events, legal loopholes used to avoid making decisions to uplist species, bats continuing to be shot for crop protection, a focus-diverting Parliamentary Inquiry into the impacts of flying-foxes on people, and failure to finalise a Recovery Plan which has been in draft form for more than 12 years. We sincerely hope Minister Price will buck the trend and do the right thing by this embattled species.”

While other flying-foxes species have succumbed to distressing heat stress events in the past, the recent heatwave in Cairns was the first time spectacled flying-foxes have been impacted. That an estimated 23,000 animals, around 1/3 of the species, were killed in this first event is a shocking and deeply troubling statistic. Spectacled flying-foxes are keystone animals that play a critical role in pollinating and dispersing the seeds of many plants in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The repercussions of losing this irreplaceable ecological service will be undoubtedly severe.

“When we nominated spectacled flying-foxes for an uplisting at the start of 2015 the science was undeniably pointing to the fact that they were Endangered. We’re nearly four years past that point now and the situation has only worsened while Environment Ministers have failed to act. It’s entirely possible that a listing as Critically Endangered is now the most appropriate course of action.

“Former Minister Frydenberg’s last use of a legal loophole to extend his decision date was ‘to fully consider additional information’. Well, the latest information is that while decision makers have sat on their hands one in every three spectacled flying-foxes in existence has died. Humane Society International calls for Minister Price to urgently make the long-overdue move to uplist the spectacled flying-fox to Endangered so it can receive the protection needed to avoid extinction,” Mr Quartermain concluded.

Images: David White

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